Part Three: The business of building a road to peace
Engaged in an entrepreneurial education
The Peace Center provided Iran an introduction to Goodwin University’s Entrepreneurial Network (ENet) program. “I learned about ENet through program director Matt Connell,” Iran says. “He was participating in a program we have here at the Peace Center working with the formerly incarcerated. He approached me with his idea of an entrepreneurial class, and he wanted to talk to me about how I could help recruit members. Then I decided that instead of just recruiting members, I wanted to join the program as a student to support their decision. That way, if they asked why they should get involved, I could say that I was involved, that I was a student. I wanted to be an example, not just tell them about the program. I wanted to go through the classes with them.
“I have one of the most unique roles within ENet. When I started, I had a triple role: I was a student, an in-class mentor for five men, and a partner responsible for class content, bringing in presenters and speakers. I even met with ENet faculty to evaluate progress and guide the direction of the program. It’s a very interesting, ongoing role.”
And although Iran already had a successful non-profit before enrolling in Goodwin’s ENet program, he managed to learn more about business on a bigger scale.
“ENet helped me establish my capacity for looking at myself as a future business owner with a for-profit business that I wanted to create. The program helped me a lot with my idea for the Peaceful Intentions Café, which is what I want to do after the Peace Center — building peace in the community one cup at a time.
“In terms of the for-profit arm of the business, before ENet, I never really thought about the global impact of laws and regulations. Never once did I think about how decisions are made through federal, state, and local governments.
“In ENet, I learned the value of understanding business from the local, regional, national, and global levels. The professors taught me how to research more to understand outside my realm of knowledge — to look at the complete picture of my business, not just the day-to-day operations. I learned a lot about using Excel, the economics of business, and overall planning. I learned a great deal in class, and I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned.”
Gathering greatness at Goodwin
Of his relationship with ENet director Matt Connell, Iran states, “We started out as strangers and developed a connection and friendship. I value his drive to do more for the program. If I wrote him right now and said there was a problem, he would call me instantly. He would literally drop everything he’s doing — he wouldn’t even ask what’s wrong. He’s determined to make sure that students are receiving what they need. Even on his personal time, if someone has a hardship, Matt will visit that person or drop off whatever support necessary. You don’t get that from many professors, or people period. That’s one of the things that made me realize he was genuine about helping people succeed. He takes it to heart.”
Iran has left his mark on Matt as well. “Iran is one of the most heartfelt people I know,” Matt says. “He is on a mission to bring peace to every community he intermingles with, and his interactions within the ENet community are no exception. Iran continues to be instrumental in the growth and development of ENet. He was the first student to enroll and has been an invaluable partner throughout the program. I have personally learned so much from him and am grateful our paths crossed. Through his work as the founder of the Peace Center of Connecticut and the CEO of Peaceful Intentions Café, Iran will continue to bring his message of peace to a larger audience.”
Iran is now a career advisor for the ENet program at Goodwin, meeting virtually every other Monday and making mentorship contacts with the currently incarcerated. And just as Dr. Borrero encouraged him years ago, Iran passes on that same powerful and inspiring mentorship to others.
“I’ve made awesome connections with some of the students who were watching me on TV or in the news from behind a prison wall. I didn’t know I was their role model, according to some of them, until I saw them in class,” Iran admits. “It was a really touching moment for me. I do this work from my heart to help people, but sometimes you don’t fully understand how far reaching that can be. They could be choosing to do many other things, and the fact that they’re pursuing a passion that they have is respectable and something that I can always get behind.”
When asked what he wanted people to take away from his story, Iran advises, “The greatest thing you can do for yourself is reflecting on the realities of who you are. What we do too often is reflect on what we’re expected to be, what other people believe about us, what we’re going through, or what someone did to us. We rarely reflect on what we can actually accomplish and what we have learned from everything that’s happened in our lives. Take time to reflect on where you are and what’s possible. Even at the moment when you’re going through something difficult, keep in mind what’s possible, so that your purpose drives you.”
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.